June 6, 2003
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services broke the law by giving grant money to two groups that counsel women about abortions, an attorney general's opinion said Wednesday. The department applied for the grant from the state Health Care Cash Fund in 2002 to establish a "Teen Clinic Pilot Project." The $100,000 grant was to be given to Lincoln Planned Parenthood and Hastings Family Planning Agency over three years to create "alternative" clinics sponsoring "Teen Nights" where youths would receive information about birth control, pregnancy tests, Pap smears and STD tests.
State law says "no funds appropriated or distributed under this act shall be used for abortion, abortion counseling, referral for abortion, school-based health clinics or research or activity of any kind involving the use of human fetal tissue obtained in connection with the performance of an induced abortion." Both facilities receive federal grants that require them to offer information about pregnancy, including abortion. "Therefore... Nebraska Health and Human Services System did err in awarding the grant... and the grant is void as a matter of law," wrote Assistant Attorney General Jason Hayes.
Kathie Osterman, spokesperson for Health and Human Services, said the agency is reviewing the opinion. Chris Funk, Planned Parenthood spokesperson, said all the money was awarded for peer education and none of it will be used for abortions or abortion counseling or referral. She said Planned Parenthood plans to challenge the opinion.
The US abortion rate dropped significantly during the second half of the 1990s, particularly among teenagers. Experts credit better awareness of contraception and the fear of disease, which cut down on sexual activity. In Nebraska, the number of abortions in 2002 (3,775) was the lowest since 1975 (3,408).